Secretary of State Mark Ritchie announced the formation of a five-person statewide canvassing board today that will oversee the mandatory recount in the U. S. Senate race. Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson and Ramsey County Chief Judge Kathleen Gearin, along with two other judges, will join Ritchie on the panel.
“This is a tremendous amount of work,” Ritchie said at a press conference this afternoon announcing the details. “Their willingness to take on this task is very, very appreciated by our office.”
The recount is slated to begin next Wednesday, with ballots being manually inspected at roughly 120 locations across the state. The process is expected to conclude by December 5. Norm Coleman currently holds a 206-vote lead over Al Franken, but that margin has dropped by more than 500 votes since election day as counties have corrected errors and certified results.
Local canvassing boards will inspect each of the roughly 2.9 million ballots to determine which candidate a voter intended to support. In Ramsey County, for example, eight teams of inspectors are slated to begin examining the ballots Wednesday morning at the county’s election offices. Authorized representatives from the Franken and Coleman campaigns will monitor the process and have the ability to challenge any decisions that they deem questionable. The recount process will also be open to the public.
Then starting on December 16, the statewide canvassing board will be begin ruling on all challenged ballots, with the hope of certifying a winner in the contest before the end of the year. “We expect everything to move smoothly,” Ritchie said, noting that local election officials routinely conduct partial recounts to check for machine errors. “They’re fairly used to this process.”
The Democratic Secretary of State also responded to concerns raised by the Coleman campaign about his ability to oversee a fair, non-partisan process. “I think it’s normal campaign rhetoric and I’ve gotten used to it over the past week,” Ritchie said. “I’ve just gotten used to that kind of thing.”
Ritchie also acknowledged the possibility that the outcome of the election may ultimately be determined in the courts. “We’re not part of that,” he said. “We’re an administrative process to count the votes of the citizens of Minnesota.”
Three other state legislative races where the margin of victory was less than half of one percent will also be subject to recounts. Those contests were won by Democrats Gail Kulick Jackson (89 votes), Lisa Fobbe (85 votes) and Al Doty (76 votes).